Vv 1-12: The return of God's glory to the temple. (Having
described the temple, God next revealed that He approved of it.)
Vv 1,2: Ezekiel's guide next led him to the east gate in the
outer wall. There the prophet saw the glory of God approaching the temple from
the east (cf Deu 33:2; Isa 60:1-3). God's glory had departed from Solomon's
temple when the Babylonians destroyed it (Eze 8; 10:4,18,19; 11:22-25). This
seems to be a promise that such glory will return in the future -- apparently,
it never returned to the temple built by Zerubbabel, perhaps because it was not
undertaken on the proper model, or completed in the manner God commanded (cp Hag
This, therefore, may be a promise -- as yet unfulfilled --
which will be fulfilled when Christ returns to set up God's Kingdom.
THE GLORY OF THE GOD OF ISRAEL COMING FROM THE EAST:
The "glory of the LORD" had departed the temple and the city by degrees, as seen
much earlier by Ezekiel (Eze 9:3; 10:4,18,19; 11:23). The departure had
signified that God's favor was being removed from His people and His nation,
preparatory to the destruction brought by Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians.
But now the same "glory" is seen returning -- which must
surely mean a reversal of previous fortunes, and a time when Israel returns to
God's favor! In its later fulfillment, this points to the return of Christ --
his second coming, when he comes back to Jerusalem, by way of the mount of
Olives, east of the city. Apparently the prophet Zechariah saw this: "Then the
LORD will go out and fight against those nations, as he fights in the day of
battle. On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of
Jerusalem" (Zec 14:3,4). And the angels who witness Christ's ascension (from the
mount of Olives: Acts 1:12) seem to allude to this also, when they tell the
apostles: "This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come
back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven" (Acts 1:11).
In the Last Days, there is, too, the promise of special
"kings" coming from the east, and back to the city of God (Rev 16:12). This may
possibly refer to the glorified saints returning to the city of their "birth"
(see Psa 87!), as the embodiment of the immortalized "Body of Christ". And this
will be the ultimate, and most glorious, fulfillment of this prophecy!
HIS VOICE WAS LIKE THE ROAR OF RUSHING WATERS: God's
voice was as the sound of a mighty waterfall (powerful and majestic: cp Eze
1:24; Rev 1:15; 14:2).
AND THE LAND WAS RADIANT WITH HIS GLORY: His glory
illuminated the land as it passed over it (cf Exo 34:29,30,35; Mark 9:3; 2Co
4:6; Rev 1:16; 18:1).
This vision reminded Ezekiel of the vision of God that he had
seen by the river Chebar (Eze 1:3), when he saw God coming to judge Jerusalem
(cf Eze 1:4-28; 9:1,5; 32:18). He responded by prostrating himself before the
Lord again (cf Eze 1:28; 3:23).
THE GLORY OF THE LORD ENTERED THE TEMPLE THROUGH THE GATE
FACING EAST: Yahweh's glory entered the temple through the east gate, the
same gate through which Ezekiel had formerly seen it leave the city. The Holy
Spirit transported Ezekiel in his vision to the inner court, and there he saw
that God's glory had filled the temple (cf Exo 24:9-17; 34:29,30; Luke 2:8-10).
Similarly the glory of God had come upon and filled the tabernacle at its
dedication (Exo 40:34,35) and Solomon's temple at its dedication (1Ki 8:10,11;
2Ch 5:13,14; 7:1-3).
An interesting preview of the departure and return of God's
glory occurred when God's glory departed with the ark of the covenant into the
Philistine camp (1Sa 4:19-22) and then returned when David brought the ark into
Jerusalem (2Sa 6:17-19). Another parallel is Jesus' departure from Jerusalem in
His crucifixion, and His return to it in His second advent.
There is an ancient gate facing east in the Temple walls. It
is called the Golden Gate, and many years ago it was bricked over by the Muslims
-- apparently under the impression that, if the gate were sealed shut, no Jewish
or Christian Messiah could ever come back to God's city and God's temple!
"The eastern gate that overlooks the Kidron Valley today is
closed as it has been since the Crusades, nearly a thousand years ago. Crusaders
walled up the gate because they believed that Jesus entered the temple mount by
this gate on Palm Sunday and that it should be closed until he returns to
reenter the temple mount. Zech 14:4,5 presents the Messiah coming to the valley
on the eastern side of the temple in preparation for his entry into the temple
area. This has been regarded as biblical evidence that the gate should remain
closed until Jesus returns.
"Today the eastern gate, also called the Golden Gate, is a
significant holy site for three major world religions, Judaism, Christianity,
and Islam. Jews believe that when the Messiah comes he will open the east gate
and enter the temple mount first and then enter the city of Jerusalem. Moslems
believe that the gate is the site of final judgment and call it the gate of
heaven and hell. They believe the final judgment of humanity will take place
before the eastern gate and the redeemed are those who will be allowed to enter
the temple mount; all others will be outcasts... The Romans destroyed the wall
around Jerusalem in 70 AD. The present Golden Gate dates back to the seventh
century AD. The Crusaders walled it up in the eleventh century. The Ottoman
Turks partially destroyed it and then repaired it in the early sixteenth
century. The Turkish governor then walled it up again in 1530 AD, and it has
remained closed ever since" (Cooper, cited in Const).
Vv 6-12: The significance of the vision.
The prophet heard someone speaking to him from the temple, and
there was a man, probably Ezekiel's guide, standing beside him (cf Eze
Cp 1Ki 8:12,13,27; 1Ch 28:2; Psa 99:5; 132:7; Isa 66:1; Jer
THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL WILL NEVER AGAIN DEFILE MY HOLY
NAME: Cp Eze 39:7.
THE LIFELESS IDOLS OF THEIR KINGS: Does this refer to:
(a) actual idols, (b) the bodies of the kings, or (c) symbolically, anything
that men may honor and serve?
"It is not just their kings they should put away, but the
carcasses of their kings -- the 'kings' had to be dead. We must not just stop
using our 'kings'; we must make them inaccessible lest we regress-- as we surely
will if the temptation is left open. So let us put away the carcasses of our
kings today: Col 3:5-9" (PC).
Are we ashamed of our sins, when we see the glory of God in
His Temple -- ie, in Christ? Cp Peter: "Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful
man!" (Luk 5:8).
ALL THE SURROUNDING AREA ON TOP OF THE MOUNTAIN WILL BE
MOST HOLY: "It is now time to consider the Holy Place which is taken to be a
circle of thirty self-contained and identical 'cellae' (as the author [HSul] is
fond of calling them) round the foot of the hill. What are the grounds for
concluding that these buildings are circular in arrangement? One is able to
discover only two points of evidence, both of which -- on examination -- are
palpably wrong. The first is Eze 43:12: 'Upon the top of the mountain the whole
limit thereof round about shall be most holy. Behold this is the law of the
House.' Apparently that phrase 'round about' is taken to require a circular
shape (p 48). But the Hebrew word thus translated carries no suggestion whatever
of circular shape. It is used (Eze 40:5; 45:2) of the square enclosure of the
Sanctuary, of the rectangular enclosure of the Tabernacle court (Exo 27:17), of
the circuit of the square altar (Eze 43:13). If more examples are needed: Eze
40:16,43; 41:5-8,10-12; Exo 38:16,20,31; 40:8,33. As a point of evidence this
'round about' is worthless. In any case Eze 43:12 says: 'At the top of the
mountain the whole limit thereof round about shall be most holy,' whereas HSul
puts his circle of buildings at the foot of the hill" (FLET).
The other point of evidence for a "circular temple" is Eze
41:1 (see note there).
Eze 43:13--46:24: The temple ordinances: Instructions
(statutes) designed to maintain holiness in the new temple follow. Yahweh
specified how His people were to construct the new altar to accommodate
sacrifices (Eze 43:13-17) and how they were to dedicate it (Eze 43:18-27). He
revealed how they were to use the temple (Eze 44:1-9), how the priests were to
function (Eze 44:10-31), and how the sacred land district was to be used (Eze
45:1-8). An exhortation to Israel's leaders forms the center of this section
(Eze 45:9-12). The rest of it contains instructions for the worship leader (Eze
45:13--46:18) and directions for the use of the priests' kitchens (Eze
Vv 13-17: The altar was at the very center of the whole temple
complex, and it was the centerpiece of the system of worship represented in the
new temple complex.
V 13: The altar of sacrifice in the middle of the inner
court, in front of the entrance to the temple proper, stood on a foundation
(base) that was one long cubit thick (about 21 inches). The base extended beyond
the first tier of the altar above it one cubit on all four sides. On the very
outside edges of the base, a curb one span high (about nine inches) served to
form a gutter around the altar. Evidently this gutter collected and channeled
away the blood that flowed down the sides of the altar.
The square altar rose above its foundation in three tiers, the
largest one below, the next largest one above it, and the smallest one on top.
The first, largest stage was two cubits high and one cubit smaller than the
foundation on each of its four sides. The second tier was four cubits high and
one cubit smaller than the first tier on each of its four sides.
Vv 15,16: The third tier, which formed the altar hearth, the
very top of the altar, was also four cubits high. Four horns stood on the top of
the altar, one at each corner undoubtedly, symbolizing strength. This tier, the
hearth, was 12 cubits (20 feet) wide on each side.
ALTAR HEARTH: Heb "ariel" (as also in v 16): HSul
suggests meaning of "Lion of God", stating: "It (the altar) will typify the
terror of Yahweh: and its existence in His House will be a warning to one and
all not to perform the part of the wicked..." But HAW writes: "But since only
the priest would see it or come near to it (the rest being, as already
mentioned, more than half a mile away [ie, by HSul's hypothesis as to overall
size and location]), this does not seem wonderfully appropriate, the more so
since the priest would need the warning least of all, being a 'son of Zadok
(righteousness)'. It seems to have been overlooked not only that 'Lion of God'
is condemned by its obvious unfitness as a name for an altar, but that Ariel may
also mean 'I will provide a ram', with evident suitability and allusion to Gen
The second tier was 14 cubits square. It too had a curb around
its upper edge that formed a gutter, and that curb was half a cubit high (cf v
13). There were to be steps up to the altar from the east. The total size of
this altar was about 32 feet square at the bottom, 20 feet square at the top,
and 20 feet high. Solomon's brazen altar had been smaller (2Ch 4:1). This design
made this altar resemble a small ziggurat.
Formerly the Lord had forbidden the use of steps leading up to
His altars (Exo 20:24,26).
FOURTEEN CUBITS LONG AND FOURTEEN CUBITS WIDE: HAW
comments: "The dimensions of the altar present further grievous difficulty. In
height it appears to be 2 cubits (for the lower 'settle') plus 4 cubits (for the
greater 'settle') plus 4 cubits (for the altar itself) = total 10 cubits [Eze
43:14-16]. The length and breadth (over all) = 14 cubits (Eze 43:14-17). But in
these latter dimensions the word 'cubit' is supplied by the translators. Their
common sense conclusion that all the units are cubits is curtly discarded by our
author [HSul]. 'But this is not the case,' he asserts, though not without reason
given. And the reason given is this. 'The measure of 14 cubits does not even
attain to the dimensions of the altar made by Solomon.' Such a state of affairs
is, to his mind, unthinkable. Yet, why should it be? Solomon's temple had gold
and silver and brass in abundance, almost beyond weight, whereas in this temple
there is no hint of any use at all being made of any of them. One looks for more
solid argument before changing cubits into reeds, six times as long. 'We have
far more reason for supplying the word "reed" rather than cubit.' But what that
reason may be is not apparent to this reader... The result of inflating the
dimensions of the altar is that it is now at least 108 feet [14 'reeds'] on each
side -- big enough to take hundreds of carcasses at once. But one is left
wondering how the priest would succeed in arranging these sacrifices, at a
distance of more than 50 feet away. Would he walk on the altar, or would he be
equipped with modern mechanical handling plant?" (FLET).
THE STEPS OF THE ALTAR FACE EAST: The AV mentions "his
stairs" on the eastward side of the altar. HSul "rejects this translation in
favor of another just as valid: 'ascent' (p 53b). He then proceeds: 'If we adopt
"ascent" as the meaning, it would indicate that the altar would be difficult of
approach, if not, humanly speaking, inaccessible from any other than the east
side.' Does this really follow? The logic of this conclusion is not easy to
grasp. Yet this becomes a ground for putting the altar on a mountain peak
unclimbable on three sides! When, however, it is observed that the record about
Israel's altar in the wilderness and also the detail about the throne of Solomon
has the same word translated 'steps' (Exo 20:26; 1Ki 10:19), there seems to be
little enough reason for disallowing 'stairs' here. The same word occurs
translated 'steps' in Eze 40:22,26,31, and the AV reading here is accepted
without demur. Then why not in Eze 43:17?... One is left wondering also how the
priests would transport the hundreds of sacrifices to the altar-summit of this
mountain. But perhaps the powers of immortality are to make light of this toil"
Vv 18-27: The cleansing of the altar.
V 18: The Lord told Ezekiel what to do when the
construction of the altar was complete. The purpose of this altar was to receive
the burnt offerings that people would bring to the Lord, and to receive the
blood of those animal sacrifices.
Vv 19-21: Ezekiel was to give to one of the priests that would
serve in this sanctuary, a priest from the honored line of Zadok (cp Eze 40:46;
44:15; 1Ki 2:35), a young bull for a sin offering. He was to smear some of the
bull's blood on the four horns of the altar and on the four corners of its
second tier (cp Exo 29:12). This would cleanse the altar and make atonement for
it (ie, purify it). Similar ceremonies had taken place to cleanse the tabernacle
and Solomonic temple altars (cf Exo 29:36-37; Lev 8:14-17; 2Ch 7:9). Ezekiel was
to burn the remainder of this bull outside the inner court (cf Lev
Vv 22-24: The next day Ezekiel was to offer a ram that was
free of blemishes as a sin offering. This also was part of the seven-day ritual
necessary to cleanse the altar. Then he should present another bull and another
ram, equally blemish free, in the inner court. The priest was to throw salt on
them, slay them, and offer them as burnt offerings.
SALT: An agent of purification and preservation that
was often used symbolically (Lev 2:13; Num 18:19; 2Ch 13:5; Mark
Vv 25,26: On each of the seven days Ezekiel was to prepare a
goat for a sin offering and a young bull and a ram as burnt offerings. These
sacrifices also had to be without blemish, and they would make atonement and
purify the altar. This seven-day ceremony would consecrate the altar for service
(cp Exo 29:36.37).
After the completion of this consecration ceremony, from the
eighth day onward, the priests were to offer burnt and peace offerings on this
altar. The Lord promised to accept the worship of His people if they followed